Have you always known? No.
When did you know? When I did.
How do you know? I just do.
That's a simplified approximation of every conversation I've had for the last few days.
My name is Graham. I'm a trans man and today is my coming out day.
Some of you might stop reading now. Maybe above is all you want or need to know and you can close the tab and leave. That's okay, you can do that. For anyone else, you can keep reading and I'll tell you my story.
I didn't always know I was a man. I grew up a girl, and I just thought that I was very bad at being a girl. I spent a lot of time and energy teaching myself to be a girl. How to do my make up, how to do my hair, how to walk like a girl and sit like a girl and talk like a girl. I failed miserably at all of it and I hated myself for it, but I didn't think I was a man. I was just a really bad girl.
I've hated my body my entire life. I hated the way it looked, I hated the way I felt. I hated the way clothes fit. I didn't think it was because I was wearing the wrong gender clothes, I just thought I was unattractive. I blamed society and their high expectations of women. My body didn't look like the bodies on the magazines and clearly that was the problem. (Side note, societal expectations of women are still complete and utter bullshit and it should stop). But I didn't think it was a man.
I've always had intense penis envy. I figured that was pretty normal, right? Especially because I primarily prefer women. All lesbians want penises, right? That's a normal lesbian thing. It's just because I'm a lesbian. Thinking about it now, that's ridiculous, but it's the way my brain processed it. I wanted a penis because they're useful for sleeping with women. I like women. It was logical to me.
Turns out, no. I really wanted a penis because I'm really a man.
I don't remember the first time I thought maybe I was a man, but I know that I rejected it outright. That's ridiculous. I can't do that. I have children. My family wouldn't understand. But the thought kept coming back. Again and again and again. It got to the point that I couldn't think of anything else. But I just could NOT be a man. I would lose my friends if I were a man. I'd lose my family. My ex husband would take my children. I would lose everything. I couldn't be a man.
On and on I rejected it with more and more force until I ended up in my bathroom, curled up on the floor crying with thoughts slamming through my brain, trying desperately to fend them off and make them stop. I'd gone into the bathroom because I'd decided that the only problem was that I wasn't girling hard enough. I was going to put on make up. Really really do it up. Make up to the nines. I'd do that, and then I'd look in the mirror and I'd see just how much of a girl I am. Then things would be better.
I opened my makeup bag and saw my mascara sitting at the top and I had a different thought. Rather than proving how much of a girl I am, I could stop it if I could just prove how much of a guy I'm not. So I took the mascara, and I drew a beard. A goatee, actually. It's the same goatee that my dad had the whole time I was growing up. I thought that I would do that, and I'd look in the mirror and I'd see how ridiculous all of this is and then it would stop. I would prove my stupid brain wrong (because let's face it, my brain's an ass and is usually pretty stupid to me).
But I looked in the mirror and it didn't look ridiculous. I mean, no more ridiculous than the fact that I had mascara on my face. I looked like my dad. I LOOK like my dad. I was PROUD to look like my dad. That face in the mirror felt good. He looked good. He was me.
I still didn't believe it then, though. At least, I didn't believe that I COULD do it. I would still lose my friends and my family and my job and my kids. The kids was the kicker, the real fear that took hold of my chest and rocked me to my core. I was convinced that my ex would sue me for custody and take my children and find me unfit and I'd lose the three most important people in my life. That couldn't happen. Losing my friends, or my family or even my job would all suck and hurt me deeply, but losing my children would break me. It would end me.
That fear was huge and paralyzing. I wasn't able to process or think or breathe. So I did what I do and I stared that big ugly fear in the face. I called my ex. Either he would confirm my fear and I'd just stay in the closet and ignore it, or he'd debunk it. One way or another, it would be over.
Turns out, he was fine. He wants me to be healthy, and so long as the children were taken care of, that's all that matters. I could be a man.
Even then, I didn't know. I just knew I could start to think about it, start to process it. It was the first step.
That day I bought an ace bandage at walgreens. I went home, went into my bedroom, and I bound my chest, slipped into a tshirt and looked into a mirror. There he was. There was me. It was the first time in my life I'd looked into a mirror and seen myself looking back at me. It was the first time I looked in a mirror and saw a body I didn't hate. A person I didn't hate. That was the moment that I knew. It was like a puzzle piece that finally clicks together. It fits. I fit. He fits. I am he. There was this film of wrongness that had been slicked all over my skin for 28 years and I slipped it off in that moment. All the things that had always been wrong, namelessly wrong, wrong without me being able to pinpoint why... all of those things were righted. I was a man. I am a man.
Today I came out at work. I've come out to most of my family and some of my close friends. This is me coming out to the rest of the world. So hello, there. My name's Graham, or Grey. My girlfriend calls me Grey. I prefer he/him. I expect that people are going to mess that up the first time, or the first few times. That's okay. If you have questions, you can ask me. If I don't feel like answering them, I'll tell you, but as with most things in my life, I'm pretty open about this.
For me, the hard part is just starting, I think. I don't expect any of this to be easy, but I hope if you're reading this far, you'll be there with me for it. I'll write about it, I'll most definitely tweet about it. The good parts, and the bad parts. I can tell you so far, being Graham is the best thing I've ever done.